Five matchups to watch for as the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams seek to build their NFC West lead against the Arizona Cardinals:
Justin Bethel, DB, #28 vs Tavon Austin, WR, #11 The question to ask: “How do these guys ever score?” One way the Rams remain dangerous is special teams play from Austin. Bethel sets the tone for a coverage unit that will be adjusting to a new punter.
A.Q. Shipley, C, #53 vs Aaron Donald, DT, #99 With J.J. Watt season done, Aaron Donald is the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year, even though he has yet to record a sack. Donald is a handful for the NFL’s best offensive linemen; Shipley was embarrassed by Kyle Williams last week.
Kevin Minter, ILB, #51 vs Todd Gurley, RB, #30 Out of 35 qualifying backs, Gurley is 34th in DYAR (season-long efficiency), 32nd in DVOA (play-by-play efficiency) and 22nd in Success Rate. Still, Minter had problems maintaining gap discipline against Buffalo, and Gurley is much more talented than LeSean McCoy.
Carson Palmer, QB, #3 vs Mark Barron, OLB, #26 Barron has completed the transition from defensive back to coverage linebacker with aplomb. Palmer has been challenged recognizing underneath coverage on seam routes to John Brown and others. This could be an explosive combination.
Jared Veldheer, LT, #68 vs Robert Quinn, DE, #94 Quinn has just one sack in three career games against Veldheer; Veldheer is coming off one of his worst games as a Cardinal. If the offensive tackle requires help from a tight end or running back, it puts weaker links like D.J. Humphries and Shipley at risk.